The Health Risks of Eating Conventional Potatoes

Written by Max Goldberg on November 30, 2013. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

health-risks-potatoes

Whenever I think about a lot of the food that I ate growing up, it isn’t overly pleasant. It was the standard American diet with all of the processed, fast food that most of the country still consumes today.

Fortunately, my childhood took place before the emergence of GMOs (mid-90s) and growth hormone milk (late 80s), so I escaped some of the really bad things when my body was in its crucial stage of development.

One food that I fondly remember eating, and loving, at family dinners was potatoes. And it wasn’t just the insides of the potatoes. I particularly loved eating the skins. Yet, little did I or my parents know just how toxic they were.

When many people think of the most important foods to be eating organic, potatoes do not immediately come to mind as quickly as apples, grapes, or spinach do. But they should and here’s why.

THE PROBLEMS WITH CONVENTIONAL POTATOES

1) According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, 35 different pesticides have been found on conventional potatoes.

And out of these 35:

– 6 are known or probably carcinogens

– 12 are suspected hormone disruptors

– 7 are neurotoxins

– 6 are developmental or reproductive toxins

The chemical that is found on 76% of all conventional potatoes is chlorpropham, an herbicide that is used to stop the growth of weeds and to inhibit potato sprouting.

Not only is this chemical toxic to honey bees, but according to the Extension Toxicology Network, chronic exposure of laboratory animals to chlorpropham has caused “retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen, and death.”

2) As a root vegetable, potatoes absorb all of the pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides that are sprayed above the ground and then eventually make their way into the soil.

With potatoes, however, the chemical treatment is quite extensive.

During growing season – They get treated with fungicides

Before harvesting – They get sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines

After being dug up – They get sprayed again to prevent them from sprouting

3) Quite often, the most important information about a food is what growers or “insiders” have to say about it.

Jeff Moyer, farm director at the Rodale Institute and former chair of the National Organic Standards Board, has been quoted as saying “I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”

ORGANIC POTATOES ARE THE ANSWER

Needless to say, when I eat potatoes, I only eat organic potatoes because organic production does not allow for the use of all of these toxic chemicals.

Please share this post with your friends and family, so they can be purchasing the safest potatoes possible.

organic-potatoes

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34 Comments

  1. It’s just so ridiculous that we process our commercial potatoes so they don’t sprout! Why? Purely for aesthetics. It makes no sense.

    Written by Mike Luque on December 1, 2013 @ 12:11 pm
  2. Wow you really tell it straight but there is another issue looming and that is transgenic potatoes. Monsanto cleverly marketed back in the late 90’s a transgenic potato labeled as “New Leaf” , they touted them as the “environmentally responsible” choice because their “built-in pest protection” allows farmers to decrease pesticide use. Because of consumers concerned with health issues companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and the company the makes Lays chips, Fritos, stopped purchasing potatoes that were genetically modified so they were taken off the market in 2001. So what is next for Monsanto and the GMO controversy!

    Written by Deb on December 1, 2013 @ 12:45 pm
  3. Dear Max, I am so happy that you wrote about the potatoes because I know it since some time and people did not believe me.

    Do you have any information how the situation is in New Zealand?
    Please let me know. Thanks NINA

    Written by NINA on December 2, 2013 @ 8:04 pm
  4. […] at least be eaten by my family now. And they do make a pretty good substitute for mashed potatoes (see Living Maxwell’s post on health risks of non-organic potatoes). And here’s a link to show you the health benefits of […]

    Pingback by Turnips have found a purpose in my life | Organic Eater on December 3, 2013 @ 12:37 pm
  5. […] potatoes could be  problematic for those watching their sugar levels, but more importantly,  this link at Living Maxwell describes the potential health risks of eating conventional potatoes, and potatoes are on The […]

  6. While I do not doubt some of this info, some of this is misleading and grand-sweeping. I am a member of a generational potato farm family.

    We do not, nor do we know of other farmers, that spray ANYTHING after digging. That would only increase the break down of the potato itself, making it very difficult to sell. The sugars and core temp of the utmost importance while in storage (post digging) and the climate is our biggest issue. Believe it or not, the potato is highly sensitive to temps – both heat and cold temps are damaging. I cannot imagine a farmer increasing their own stress levels by spraying their potatoes directly with anything. But, again, I can only speak for our own farm and our farmer friends.

    Secondly, we work with a state organization that tests our soil and takes samples of our harvest. Every single year, we do this. We want to do this.

    Finally, when using any type of spray, we use the absolute minimum amount because its VERY expensive and an unpleasant farming task. There are years were we do not have to use ANY at all – those are the great years where Mother Nature provides us with mild temperature and proper rain.

    And, if it matters, my family tends to live in into their 90’s (knock on wood) and no one has passed of cancer of any type. (knock on wood again, please). I knew my great, great grandmother and attended her 100th birthday party when I was a wee-one. She for several more years.

    I do not mean to dispute you. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some farmers do all that you mentioned. But, if possible, please be a little more careful not to group us all together. Some of us are environmentally as careful and conscious as we can possibly be while trying to survive what’s been coined as ‘a dying breed’.

    Thank you for allowing me to speak freely. May you have a Happy Holiday!

    Written by anonymous on December 10, 2013 @ 10:37 pm
  7. Thanks for sharing, Anonymous. I appreciate your input and am always happy to hear a different perspective.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 11, 2013 @ 1:03 pm
  8. Hi Nina,

    I am sorry but don’t have information about New Zealand. If I come across anything, I’ll let you know.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 11, 2013 @ 1:10 pm
  9. I agree, Mike!

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 11, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
  10. Hello Max,
    I just want to caution you to the fact that i had purchased ORGANIC potatoes at a grocery store (their brand) and when i was cutting them up i noticed that they kinda had the same coloring as mcdonalds french fries and that unsettled me, so, i decided to leave a 1/4 potatoe on the counter just to make sure that it would BROWN to ease my mind! I was making mashed potatoes and would not know if i didn’t leave it sit on the counter to brown! 4hours later the potatoe looked just like if it was just peeled and cut!!!! I couldn’t believe that it DID NOT brown!!! So, i made it a point to contact the people who supposedly watch over Organic food and made an official complaint and gave them all the info. They are suppose to investigate things and get back to me! I’m am left SHOCKED!!!! and discouraged!

    Written by May on December 13, 2013 @ 12:44 pm
  11. Hi May,

    I am sorry that you had such a negative experience.

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 15, 2013 @ 7:14 pm
  12. @ May,
    so if the potatoes brown does that mean that they are non-GMO? I shop at local farmers markets in my area and they use less if not any pesticides etc. I noticed that these potatoes brown within 10 min or so and they sprout 4 days after I buy them, so is that good?

    Thanks

    Written by Erin on December 16, 2013 @ 12:17 pm
  13. “It’s just so ridiculous that we process our commercial potatoes so they don’t sprout! Why? Purely for aesthetics. It makes no sense.”……………………. Well, no. When potatoes sprout they make high levels of solanine which really is a poison and can kill or make you very ill after only one plate. Always keep potatoes in the dark and if they have gone soft or have sprouted do not cook or eat.

    Written by me on January 12, 2014 @ 8:08 am
  14. […] found over 37 pesticides on sweet potatoes. If you want to learn more, visit my friend’s website. It’s worth it to spend the few extra dollars to safeguard you and your family’s […]

    Pingback by A ‘Creamy’ and Spicy Sweet Potato Soup | mbeewell on February 8, 2014 @ 2:28 pm
  15. […] Read More: The Health Risks of Eating Conventional Potatoes […]

  16. love ur site

    Written by Angel on May 9, 2014 @ 12:07 am
  17. Hi Max,
    A friend just sent me this link to your article on potatoes.
    For many decades we have been raising certified organic potatoes in Aroostook County, Maine’s ‘Potato Empire.’
    I believe your article is accurate.
    Contrary to the experience of ‘Anonymous’ from the ‘generational potato farm family’, in this area it is common for conventionally-grown potatoes to receive two post-harvest treatments. The skin of conventional potatoes are often sprayed with with a fungicide, like “Mertect” as the potatoes are conveyed into the potato storage. Additionally, after harvest is complete, storages containing processing (chip or fry) or tablestock potatoes are gassed with sprout inhibitor to prevent potatoes from breaking dormancy and sprouting.
    Of course you are correct that organic potatoes have no need of these chemical inputs and are therefore free from residues. As organic farmers we enjoy and our family eats everything we grow.
    Jim Gerritsen
    Wood Prairie Farm
    Bridgewater, Maine
    http://www.woodprairie.com

    Written by Jim Gerritsen on June 14, 2014 @ 8:56 am
  18. Hi Jim,

    Thanks so much for your comment, and it is always great to hear from a long-time organic farmer who can tell people what really goes on on a farm. The conventional potato situation is pretty scary, to say the least.

    Also, I was very pleased to see your name attached to the petition to the USDA about what is happening at the NOSB. The crackdown against organic within our own government is something that must change.

    Thanks for being an amazing organic advocate. We are lucky to have people like you.

    All the best,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on June 17, 2014 @ 11:29 pm
  19. the problem is the families being able to afford the organic potatoes which is not an option for most families. when people scare people they forget to realize the most of these people can’t go organic they can’t afford it half of the people in United States can’t even afford to buy nutritious food because the majority of the time fruits and vegetables are way too expensive. So don’t scare the young families until you can make those organic fruits and vegetables affordable to everyone.if you go to the store you will see the 20 pound bag of organic potatoes runs about $5 then if you look at the conventional potatoes a five pound bag can run you about 4 bucks.

    Written by melissa on July 13, 2014 @ 12:01 pm
  20. Hi Melissa,

    If you interpret my “informing” the public about what is really going on as “scaring” people, then my blog isn’t for you.

    Organic is more expensive, and that is why people need to be informed about the risks of conventional food -> so they can pressure their elected officials to support organic more and make it more affordable for everyone.

    And in no uncertain terms will I stop informing people about the truth of what is really going on.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on July 13, 2014 @ 12:09 pm
  21. ah dang it. I’ve been eating pop chips and all the wrong potatoes long ago. I quit it because of carbs but now I feel safer reading this report. Organic is really the thing I need to look for everytime I purchase.

    Written by moeapex on August 30, 2014 @ 9:19 am
  22. I am SO tired of hearing that people “can’t afford” to eat organically. In the last 3 years my (not wealthy) family has gone from eating conventionally (unhealthy) to almost 100% organic. Does it take a little work? Of course. But we have not changed our food budget. No one ever complains about spending $3.99 for a package of Oreos, but they are outraged that you suggest they spend the same for 5 lbs. of organic potatoes. It’s important to us so we make it happen!

    Written by Cathie on August 30, 2014 @ 9:46 am
  23. Do you know if this applies to Canada as well?

    Written by Debbie on August 30, 2014 @ 10:18 am
  24. I love reading for posts!
    Has anyone even tested all these organic foods? I’m just curious if they all pass.

    Written by Teri on August 30, 2014 @ 10:41 am
  25. I don’t understand why people don’t grow their own potatoes. You can take a black garbage sack and grow them in that. We have plots where we grow potatoes. My 8 & 10 year old planted them and have kept them watered all summer. We should harvest at the end of September. A couple of my daughter’s plants finally died, so we dug some potatoes up and they are purple marbled potatoes, very pretty and delicious.

    Written by Diann on August 30, 2014 @ 11:08 am
  26. no way around it organic is more expensive because it is not government subsidized like grain and corn is. Not everyone has access to organic food and since we are no longer an agri nation, it is rare to find anyone with space to put a garbage bag anywhere to grow food. Both look at it as simplistic but it is not. If we have such a hunger problem in america organic is not the answer.

    Written by janet c on August 30, 2014 @ 11:36 am
  27. Yup, that’s the goal of all farmers! Poison the world and feed them everything that will make everyone sick cause we as farmers don’t eat what we produce! Imagine that!

    Written by Donna on August 30, 2014 @ 1:03 pm
  28. Unless I buy them at the Farmer Market , I do not eat Potatoes in the US
    the Organic ones are very expensive. A Bag is over $10, at the Market I pay 50% less

    Written by barbara on August 30, 2014 @ 4:11 pm
  29. This article is highly misleading. What you fail to mention is the levels of pesticides that are found on potatoes. You fail to understand the first rule of toxicology which is that the dose makes the poison. Pesticide residues are constantly monitored by the government and are found to be orders of magnitude below what is not represent a level that would do any harm to humans.

    In addition organic farming uses its own set of pesticides fungicides insecticides herbicides etc. these are often just as toxic if not more toxic than conventional alternatives.

    In short you do not understand what you’re talking about and should refrain from trying to scare the public in order to make a living.

    Written by Dan boersma on August 30, 2014 @ 8:15 pm
  30. I tend not to believe information from people that stand to gain from the information they are providing. If organic so so good for you haow come a bunch if people died from an outbreak of echolie with organic spinach. And organic food is regulated by the same USDA that we cannot trust with the regular non organic food

    Written by r u 4 real on August 31, 2014 @ 10:01 am
  31. rU4real: If that is your point, that you never believe…then I suppose you would never buy Kellogs’ cereal when they say it is “good for you” or buy Good Year Tires because they “could save your life”? EVERYONE is selling something; be smart enough to read the info and make up your own mind. It may actually be true and YOU had something to gain! Just a thought-

    Written by Love to Learn on August 31, 2014 @ 11:17 am
  32. I have a question. … If potatoes sprout does it mean they are good to eat/ organic?

    Written by Vasanti Kulkarni on August 31, 2014 @ 1:53 pm
  33. Keep in mind that organic does not equal chemical/pesticide-free; in fact, organic chemicals and pesticides often have to be sprayed much more often in order to be effective and are about as safe/toxic to humans consuming them as inorganic chemicals. of course, organic is better for the environment – no doubt. organic chemicals are not necessarily better for people. this article reads too one sided; the issue is much more gray than black and white.

    Written by Becca Shreck on August 31, 2014 @ 3:25 pm
  34. Max,

    Two things, I think you owe May a better answer. If this happened I suspect it is more prevalent than we suspect. You seem to really know how to investigate, you info was really specific. At least you should try and see how often this happens. People could make a lot of money stating it is organic when it is not

    Written by Russell on September 1, 2014 @ 8:44 am

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